Undergraduate Teaching

Part IIA project guide

Part IIA project guide

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During the Easter term following the IIA examinations, all Part IIA students undertake 2 projects from a choice of around 30.  A few projects will have some preparatory sessions during the Lent Term (counting towards the same total workload).

Some projects have pre-requisite modules ('useful' or 'essential') and will assume certain background knowledge. NB. It is the students' responsibility to check these pre-requisites, and to choose projects (and modules) appropriately - this will NOT be checked via COMET.

Details of schedules and pre-requisites are provided in the project descriptions.

Projects are of two types, “Group” and “Standard”, and you must take at least one Group project.  Group-based projects involve working in groups of at least 3, with some degree of inter-dependence and shared effort. Some Standard projects also involve working in pairs and pooling results.

Most projects are also classified as Design, Field or Language, and you must take at least one Design project.  Projects are in timetable sets, and there are a few other constraints on allowable combinations (details below).

Project codes (e.g. GA1, SB1) indicate Group (G) or Standard (S), and the associated subject area (A-G, as for IIA modules, plus L for Languages, and M for Mulitdisciplinary). Projects may be chosen from ANY subject area (taking due account of any pre-requisites). 

Each project has a project leader, but groups of projects also have a coordinator that you are welcome to contact to discuss any general matters throughout your project.  You can also contact the Teaching Office, or the overall project coordinator, Dr HR Shercliff.

Project codes Coordinator
GA, GC, SA, SC Dr SA Scott
GB, GF, SB, SF Prof  AJ Flewitt
GD, SD Dr M Overend
GG, GM, SG, SL Dr A White


Project descriptions

Project code Project Leader Category Set Capacity Moodle
GA1 Advanced Cycle Power Generation Dr T Hynes Design P2 24 Moodle
GA2 Turbo-expander Prof P Tucker Design P1 20 Moodle
GA3 Heat Exchanger Prof M Juniper Design P4 20 Moodle
GA4 Heat Pump Dr S Scott Design P3 16 Moodle
GB1 Optical Fibre Link Prof T Wilkinson Design P1 18 Moodle
GB2 Electrical Power Dr M Crisp Design P2 20 Moodle
GC2 Not running 16-17         Moodle
GC3 Mechanics of Natural Materials Dr S Huang Design P1 18 Moodle
GD1 Constructionarium Dr M Elshafie Design P6 45 Moodle
GD2 Structural Modelling Dr M DeJong Design P7 45 Moodle
GD4 Civil Engineering Design Project Dr M Overend Design P3 24 Moodle
GD5 Engineering Geology and Surveying Dr D Liang Field P5 48 Moodle
GD6 Surveying Mr A Johnson Field P5 Moodle
GF1 Control Systems Dr T Hughes Design P3 20 Moodle
GF2 Software Mr J Matheson Design P3 27 Moodle
GG1 Microfluidics Dr T Savin Design P4 12 Moodle
GG2 CT reconstruction and visualisation Dr G Treece Design P1 6 Moodle
GM1 Multidisciplinary Design Dr P Long Design P1 20 Moodle
GM2 Technology for the poorest billion Dr A Kabla Design P2 8 Moodle
SA1 Aircraft Wing Analysis Dr R Garcia-Mayoral Design P2 32 Moodle
SB1 VLSI Design Dr D Holburn Design P4 22 Moodle
SB3 Data Logger Dr I Lestas Design P2 20 Moodle
SC1 Automotive Suspension Dr D Cole Design P4 20 Moodle
SC2 Bicycle Design Dr M Sutcliffe Design P3 18 Moodle
SF1 Data Analysis Prof S Godsill   P4 20 Moodle
SF2 Image Processing Dr J Lasenby Design P1 24 Moodle
SG1 Atomic Force Microscope Dr T O'Leary Design P2 6 Moodle
SL1 Intermediate French Mr D Tual Language P8 20 Moodle
SL2 Advanced French Mr D Tual Language P8 20 Moodle
SL3 Intermediate German Mr A Bleistein Language P8 20 Moodle
SL4 Advanced German Mr A Bleistein Language P8 20 Moodle
SL5 Spanish Mr S Bianchi Language P8 20 Moodle
SL6 Japanese Ms M Nakano Language P9 20 Moodle
SL7 Chinese Ms S Deng Language P9 20 Moodle

Note: for information on the timing of projects in each set, see the sections below on Timetable Constraints and Project Timetables.

Key dates

Projects run over a 4-week period after the Part IIA examinations, so that undergraduates have no other scheduled activities. Important dates and deadlines are:

Project descriptions available for browsing Monday 10 October (Michaelmas, week 1)
Start of input of student preferences Monday 7 November (Michaelmas, week 5)
Language projects information session - in the Language Unit Wednesday 9 November, 1-2pm  
Deadline for input of student preferences Friday 11 November (Michaelmas, week 6)
First list of allocations Monday 28 November (Michaelmas, week 8)
Final list of allocations, and enrolment on Moodle Friday 13 January (Lent, week 0)
Preparatory sessions for selected projects See project descriptions (Lent, weeks 3-7)
Easter Term project period begins (Language projects: Wednesday 10 May) Thursday 11 May (Easter, week 3)
Each project will have interim reports or presentations. Deadlines for these vary - see the project descriptions for details   (Easter, weeks 3-6)
Hand-in date for final report: Constructionarium project Friday 2 June (Easter, week 6)
Hand-in date for final report:  Multidisciplinary Design project Thursday 1 June (Easter, week 6)
Latest hand-in dates for final reports: all other projects Thursday 8 / Friday 9 June (Easter, week 7)

Some project leaders may set earlier final report deadlines.  Final project reports must be handed in by 4pm on the relevant days. Students should aim to submit ahead of the deadline, and ensure that they allow for significant congestion on DPO printers.

NB:  final reports will not be accepted after the deadlines, unless there has been agreement in advance for a short extension, due to illness or other grave cause.  Project leaders are required to complete all marking by Wednesday 14 June.  Note that all interim reports must be resubmitted, appended to your final report.

How to choose a project

Students interested in taking a Language project should attend an information session on Wednesday 9 November from 1-2pm in the Language Unit.

Between Monday 7 November and Friday 11 November, you should enter online your preference, in order, for exactly five projects, satisfying the following rules:

  • Your 1st and 2nd preferences must include at least one Group project, and one Design project (many are both). Your preferences overall must include at least 3 Group and at least 3 Design projects.
  • Projects are in sets (P1, P2 etc) with each set having a fixed timetable; projects must be taken from different sets.  Certain combinations of sets are excluded for timetable reasons.
  • Some projects have pre-requisites (e.g. useful or essential IIA modules): it is your responsibility to check the project descriptions, and only to select projects for which you have taken the pre-requisites.  Your module history is NOT checked automatically on COMET by the project allocation programme.
  • Project GD1 (Constructionarium) may only be combined with GD2 (Structural Modelling) or with one of SL1-7 (Languages). Constructionarium and its associated project may only be selected as first and second preferences. Places on Constructionarium can only be guaranteed for students in the Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Area.
  • Field projects (set P5):  these projects cannot be combined with sets P1 and P2 (due to timetable clashes).  Project GD5 (Engineering Geology and Surveying) is only available for students in the Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Area; Project GD6 (Surveying) is only open to students in other Engineering Areas.
  • Apart from these restrictions, projects may be chosen from any subject area, regardless of your Engineering Area(s).

How projects are allocated

Each project has a maximum capacity, due to limits on staff, space and equipment. Some projects may not run if very few students opt for it.

Before making your selection, you should study the timetable, noting the project sets, and the combinations of sets that are not permitted.  In the online selection page, the sets are colour-coded to guide you. Before you can submit your preferences, the software will:

  1. check that your 1st and 2nd preferences form a valid combination;
  2. tell you how many of the combinations of your 1st to 4th preferences are valid (at least 2 must work to give yourself a fair chance of obtaining your 1st to 4th preferences).

You will be prompted to reconsider if either of these checks fails.

The computer programme allocates a “score” of 1 to your 1st preference, 2 to your 2nd and so on. The allocation algorithm makes the average total score per student as close to 3 as possible. In recent years most students have been allocated at least one of their first 2 preference projects, and very rarely a 5th choice – but you should still consider all five of your choices seriously, as you may be assigned to any of them.

The Teaching Office will post a first list of project allocations online  by Monday 28 November for students to check the outcome. Any queries should be referred to the Teaching Office by Monday 5 December, at the latest. You must contact the Teaching Office promptly after the first allocation list is posted if you wish to change, giving a reason for the request. The Teaching Office will endeavour to arrange alternative projects with you, but there is no guarantee that this can be achieved as many projects are over-subscribed, and Group projects must run with multiples of a specified group size.

A final list will be published (in the same places) by Monday 16 January. Changes after this date are only permitted in exceptional circumstances.  (Exceptional does not include students being inefficient or indecisive).

Timetable constraints

Projects are in sets (P1, P2 etc) with each set having a fixed timetable (see Table below); projects must be taken from different sets. Certain combinations of sets and projects are excluded for timetable reasons.

Multidisciplinary design projects (GM1, GM2)

Students may not be allocated both projects, even though they do not clash on the timetable.  Both may be included in student preferences, provided that the overall preferences produce enough valid combinations.

Constructionarium project (GD1)

Constructionarium (in combination with Structural Modelling or a Language) operate to their own timetable during the 4-week period. Constructionarium will have preparatory sessions in the Lent Term, and includes a residential week on site in Norfolk (21-26 May 2017), and a final report deadline on Tuesday May 30. The second project must therefore be concluded in the other project weeks. These projects all have the same credit as other projects, but Constructionarium necessarily requires a greater commitment of time (due to the residential week, and associated safety training).

Civil Engineering design project (GD4)

This project includes a field visit on the Tuesday of project week 1 (TBC), clashing with set P4 projects (which may not therefore be selected with GD4).

Field projects (set P5)

Students must attend timetabled sessions all day on Mondays, and all afternoon on Wednesdays and Thursdays, thereby clashing with sets P1 and P2. For field projects, the timetabled sessions add up to approximately 16 hours per week, and the time which a student is expected to work independently is correspondingly reduced.

Language projects (sets P8/9)

Language projects can be combined with any other project, including Constructionarium, but excluding Structural Modelling.

The timetabled sessions consist of 2 or 4 fixed hours (on Wednesdays) with the project leader, plus a choice of supported self-study (SS) sessions, which enable you to avoid clashes with your other project.  Students should normally expect to attend during 4-6 hours of the self-study sessions (depending on the number of fixed hours on Wednesday).  The project leader and/or a demonstrator will arrange supervisions during the SS sessions.

The Table below shows the options for SS sessions for each project – not all of these will run: the schedule for each project will be determined to fit with the 2nd projects chosen by students.

NB.  Language projects will start with a 2 or 4 hour session on Wednesday May 10, one day ahead of the other projects.

If you are interested in taking a foreign language project, you are encouraged to attend an information session on Wednesday 9 November from 1-2pm in the Language Unit, where all the language project leaders will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Project timetables for Easter Term

Time Slots Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
09.00-11.00 P2 (GA1, GB2, GM2, SA1, SB3, SG1) P3 (GA4, GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2) Lang P8/9(Fixed) (SL1, SL3, SL5, SL6, SL7) P1 (GA2, GB1, GM1, GC3, GG2, SF2) P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1);
Field P5 (GD5, GD6) Lang (SS option B) (SL1, SL2) Lang (SS option D) (SL3, SL4, SL5) Lang (SS option E) (SL1, SL2)
Lang (SS option A) (SL3, SL4, SL5) Lang (SS option A) (SL6, SL7) Lang (SS option C) (SL7) Lang (SS option C) (SL6)
P1 (GA2, GB1, GM1, GC3, GG2, SF2) P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1) Lang P8/9(Fixed) (SL2, SL4, SL5, SL6, SL7) P2 (GA1, GB2, GM2, SA1, SB3, SG1) P3 (GA4, GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6) Lang (SS option B) (SL3, SL4, SL5) Lang (SS option D) (SL1, SL2) Lang (SS option E) (SL3, SL4, SL5)
Lang (SS option A) (SL1, SL2) Lang (SS option B) (SL6, SL7) Lang (SS option D) (SL7) Lang (SS option D) (SL6)
P2 (GA1, GB2, GM2, SA1, SB3, SG1) P3 (GA4, GD4, GF1, GF2, SC2) Field P5 (GD5, GD6) P1 (GA2, GB1, GM1, GC3, GG2, SF2) P4 (GA3, GG1, SB1, SC1, SF1)
Field P5 (GD5, GD6) Lang (SS option C) (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4, SL5) Field P5 (GD5, GD6) Lang (SS option F) (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4, SL5)



Each project has a project leader who is responsible for its organisation, running and assessment. Any queries about a project should be addressed to the project leader in the first instance.

At the first session, the project leader will issue any handouts needed for the project.

Availability of computers and other equipment may be restricted at times outside your scheduled sessions, so you should allocate your unscheduled time flexibly between your two projects. Chief technicians can advise you on the hours of access to their laboratories.

Timetabled sessions and project workload

During the project period, approximately 8 hours per project per week are timetabled. During these sessions:

  1. Students can expect priority access to laboratories, equipment and computers allocated to that project.
  2. Students can expect to have access to supervision from the project leader and/or other demonstrators.
  3. Project leaders can expect to have access to all of the students on their project, as required.

You are expected to be available for all timetabled sessions (unless prevented from doing so by illness or other grave cause).  At the first (compulsory) session, project leaders will provide a detailed schedule indicating when you must attend.  A record of attendance will be kept for these compulsory sessions, and penalties applied for absence.

It is expected that students will typically spend around 20 hours per project per week, either in timetabled sessions or working on their own (including report writing).

Project reports

Lab notebooks

Students must provide themselves with a lab notebook for their projects. It is essential best practice in project management to use a lab notebook to record all day-to-day activities, as a sketch book for conceptual design work, to record calculations and experimental results etc, dating every entry. For some types of project, such as software projects, electronic records and documentation may be more appropriate. Project leaders may ask for notebooks to be produced at meetings or submitted with reports to check that the books are used correctly, with entries properly laid out and dated.

Interim and final reports

Most projects require 3 reports to be submitted, i.e. 2 interim reports and a final report. All interim reports must be appended to your final report when you hand it in. The maximum total length of all reports taken together (typed or handwritten on A4 pages) must not exceed 14 sides, plus calculations and drawings.  Students must adhere to the page limit, and keep the volume of appendices to a minimum.

Some project leaders may ask for reports to be submitted electronically (via Moodle). 

Virtually all reports will be produced electronically, and students MUST take responsibility for retaining their own electronic copies as backup.

Format of reports

The format of reports will vary from project to project, and the project leader will tell you what is required.  Some general guidelines for design projects are as follows:

Interim reports (2 sides each, excluding appendices)

  • Introduction: overview of project and aims
  • Project specification
  • Summary of preliminary design work
  • Conclusions and programme of future work
  • Appendices (include important sketches, drawings, computer listings, etc)

Final report (not greater than 10 sides of A4, excluding appendices)

Suggested section headings plus guide lengths are:

  • Introduction (1 side)
  • Summary of overall design decisions and outline of project management (1 side, possible team material)
  • Description of design/computer code (2-3 sides)
  • Problems encountered in development and their technical solutions (1 side)
  • Test procedure/software implementation (2 sides)
  • Conclusions and recommendations for improvements (1-2 sides)
  • Appendices (possible team material):
  • Important design details, including mechanical drawings, circuit diagrams, software code
  • Interim reports 1 and 2 (where applicable)

See the report writing guide for further guidance.

Report cover sheets

At the front of each report (interim and final), every student must include a signed coversheet - pdf / word   (to be downloaded and printed from this link, as required). The sheet contains:

  • A declaration stating that the student is submitting his or her own work.  (Work which has not been done by the author must be identified clearly. It is recognised that there will be some common elements between the work of students in a pair or group, for example in drawings and diagrams.)
  • Space for markers to provide written feedback (but not marks) on your reports.
  • Space for you to indicate suggestions for improvements to the project.

The online survey should be completed at the end of the project period. 

Return of reports

Reports, drawings, etc. will be kept until after the Tripos results have been published.   The work of IIA project prizewinners will be retained until the Departmental Prize Day next year.  Winners will be contacted by email.  Project work will NOT automatically be returned to students. Some project leaders may recover reports from the Teaching Office.


For each project, there are 80 marks available.  In order to spread the workload for both students and staff, continuous assessment will take place for the duration of the project period, with a number of staged reports.  Some projects include individual or group presentations as part of the assessment.  Each project has its own mark distributions and submission dates, and these are stated in the online project descriptions.  A typical allocation is:

Report Length Marks Due
1st Interim report 2-3 sides 15 marks Thursday,
project week 2
2nd Interim report 2-3 sides 15 marks Thursday,
project week 3
Final report 10 sides 50 marks Thursday,
project week 5

The main criteria for assessment will be the quality of the project work done, and the quality of the technical report writing. Marks will typically be awarded as follows:

Standard Marks out of 80
Class I 56+ (70%+)
Class II.i 48+ (60%+)
Class II.ii 40+ (50%+)
Class III 32+ (40%+)
Below honours 0-31 (0-39%)


  • No report, no marks. Half marks will not be awarded.
  • For non-attendance at compulsory timetabled sessions, the penalty is 1 mark per hour or part hour missed.
  • For late submission of interim reports, the penalty is 3 marks per weekday.
  • No reports will be accepted after the submission date for the final report.
  • Feedback will be given on each report, but the marks will not be disclosed.
  • The marks for different projects may be moderated after the conclusion of the project to even out any significant differences in mark distributions.

Allowances for illness

Students are expected to complete as much as possible of the work associated with their two projects, but the four week timetable imposes tight constraints.  If there is any significant disruption to your project work (whether or not a report deadline is missed), you must notify your tutor, project leaders and the Director of Undergraduate Education by email immediately.  If the deadline for any report is missed, a Part IIA project allowance form must be submitted by the student’s tutor within three working days of the report deadline  (NB: this is not the standard form used for all other allowances.)

Following first notification of disruption of a project due to illness, if the project work isn't back on track within 2-3 days, weekly consultations involving the Director of Undergraduate Education, project leaders and Director of Studies will be required until the project is back on track. This is in order to determine reasonable extensions to deadlines, or to agree a reduced or alternative submission of project work if appropriate.

Extensions for interim reports may be made until the final project deadline. Extensions for final reports are limited to a maximum of four days, and only in exceptional circumstances, since the examiners must publish the final class lists two weeks after the submission date. An allowance of marks may be made only if a substantial part of the project work has been submitted, with the total mark being extrapolated in suitable proportion. Note that allowances are considered separately for each project, i.e. marks awarded for one project will not be used as a basis for awarding marks on the other project. Failure to submit any reports on a project will be treated in the same way as a missed examination: zero marks will be awarded and the case referred to the University's Applications Committee. The final deadline for receipt of allowance forms is 4pm on Wednesday 14 June.

Last updated on 04/11/2015 19:17